Monday, 23 April 2018

Predatory conference game early thoughts


I've had spam from predatory journals for years, together with a much lower level of dodgy conference invites. The conferences used to be fairly easy to spot, sending the sort of email that says "We want to invite you to chair a session / give a talk at the <conference name> that covers <ever subject under the sun> in <exotic location>".
It may be my imagination, but the conference spam seems to be arriving much more regularly now and is a lot harder to critically evaluate than it used to be. It isn't as obvious any more which are predatory conferences (which may not actually run, or will be very poor quality, often at the same time as multiple other "conferences" organised by the same people), and which are "real" conferences that would be genuinely valuable for people to attend.
I came across one a little while ago that I thought would be great to speak at, but I'd never heard of before, so I was suspicious - but as far as I could tell, it was a genuine, good quality conference that would be a valuable experience. Alongside that, I got asked on 3 occasions over the period of about 2 weeks about conferences by early career researchers - they were the opposite to me and were either considering submitting to conferences, or on one occasion had already sent a paper in which (of course!) was accepted, thought the conferences seemed clearly dodgy to me.
So I started to think about what questions we should ask when we come across a conference to judge whether it is predatory or not... with the idea that at some point I can use these as a basis of a learning game.

I have heard of Think, Check, Attend by the way, but it seems a tad brief, and there isn't the same opportunity to draw out the grey areas that we might get through playing a game! I think a "checklist" approach can help with the ones that are most clearly "dodgy", but don't show the full picture a game and associated discussion might do...

So these are my vague questions so far, could anyone suggest any other "warning signs" or questions we could sensibly ask about conference opportunities?

Topics: venue, website, organisers, programme, publishing, call for papers, fees, invitations, conference title, miscellaneous.


Programme
1)    Does it seem unfeasibly broad in subject coverage?
2)    Can you find past programmes (& do they fit the suggested size of conference)?
3)    Can you find past conference proceedings/ papers (are they the type of paper you’d like yours to appear beside)?
4)    Are bookings open before a firm programme appears?


Venue
5)    is it in an attractive, hotel based location (ie is there a ‘pull’ to go there, or is it in university)?
6)    Are there other conferences being advertised in the same venue at the same time?
7)    Does the size of the venue seem to match the proposed size of conference?
8)    Does the country the conference is being held in make sense based in the organisers (e.g. Indian company, but never being held in India)

Website
9)    Are there multiple grammar and spelling issues on the site (maybe also fonts)?
10)    Are there clear links showing the organisers and sponsors?
11)    Is there clear info on previous conferences (showing programmes, etc)?
12)    Are there clear keynote speakers identified (or just mentioning people as esteemed speakers)?
13)    Are there pictures of previous conferences that show more than a small number of people?

Organisers
14)    Are they a recognisable academic or professional organisation
15)    Do they organise multiple conferences on different topics?
16)    If you search for an individual organiser does anything come up as concerning?
17)    Do they have long lists of people identified as being involved (e.g conference committee) without it being clear who the key organisers?


Publishing (if papers are to be published)
18)    Will the papers be indexed in a major database (Scopus / WoS?)?
19)    Do the journals have impact factors (proper ones!)?
20)    Are there any additional charges for publishing papers?
21)    Do you recognise the recognise the journal / publisher?
22)    Do they allow publishing papers (with costs) without attending the conference (may be called virtual papers)?


Call for papers

23)    Did they approach you to talk?
24)    If you have submitted a paper, did you hear a positive response quickly(within days);?
25)    Was a meaningful peer review included?
26)    Does the call seem very broad and ask if you would suggest other topics?
27)    Did you see the call from a source you trust (senior colleague, prof organisation, etc)?
28)    Does the call send you to a website or email address that seems to be shared by a range of other conferences?
29)    Are there clear dates showing dates for submission, acceptance, final papers, etc.?


Fees
30)    Are there extra fees for presenting (rather than reduced fees)?
31)    Are keynotes / invited speakers charged (already below?)
32)    Are there extra fees for inclusion in a proceedings publication ?


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